Project Director Jorpati SOS Children's Villages in Nepal
On the top of Mount Everest
A little girl suffering from severe Cerebral Palsy was struggling to insert a button inside the buttonhole of her shirt. Nearly after one hour of her continuous effort she was able to insert. It was the first button she had fixed independently in her life. Besides this continuous one hour effort, she was struggling with this sort of difficulties since last six years. The very next moment of her victory, she smiled with joy by raising her hands in the air like a great climber on top of the Mount Everest and her facial expression showed that nothing can defeat her, even these severe disabilities.
In the early spring of 2002, we received a call from the National Office in Kathmandu to rescue four children abandoned by their mother. The father had already died in a coal mine accident in India. When we reached at the said location, the scenario was very tragic. The smallest baby girl was lying motionlessly on the thin mattress like a log; other three children were at her side watching her helplessly. The room was filled with awful smell which could have been the result of the youngest child’s uncontrolled bowel system. After few minutes of cleaning works, she was rushed to the hospital. Two weeks later, she got her new family in SOS Children’s Village Jorpati thanks to our most senior SOS mother who accepted her wholeheartedly and welcomed her as a new member of the family.
With the reference of previous experiences; we immediately realized that she will be one of the lifelong responsibilities of SOS Children’s Village Jorpati. But at the same time we felt that we are in different era and can do a lot. We took her situation with different prospective and accepted it as a challenge to lead the way.
Joint efforts of massive physiotherapy, good diet and proper care gave us a small result of satisfaction; it was because she started to hold her head for a few second from supine position. Keeping this result as a reference, we created a team comprising of occupational therapist, physiotherapist, nurse, mother, educationist and dance teacher and set a goal that Alisha1 will go to school pulling her wheelchair independently within four years.
On 20 April 2008 in the morning around 9 a.m. Alisha came out from her home in school uniform driving her wheelchair ready to go to school. It was the first day of her new academic session and she was permitted to attend grade two. This wonderful event took place exactly after four years from the day we made our commitment.
It was nice to see her going out towards a wider open space from a confined tiny place. But at the same time it was also the starting point for her to face challenges of her school life. Not any part of school mechanism was disabled-friendly; even friends in her class had shown some reluctance to welcome her. To alter this situation we played different roles of a good mediator. We trained teachers; we supported the school to make their infrastructure disabled-friendly. We had many interactions with her classmates to convince them that only their cooperation would change Alisha’s situation and increase the level of self-confidence. We can say that what Alisha has become today is because of their acceptance and support.
In March 2012, Alisha appeared in front of us with her annual report card that was multi-coloured dominated by red circles. Of course, inside the red circles there were some marks. For us, it was an encouraging report card of a little girl who was not even able to move her hands freely and needed tremendous effort to hold any objects for few minutes. Alisha had obtained some marks in all subjects, although they were below the pass range. It was a clear message to us that she understood the subjects that were taught in the classroom. The only problem of this red circles was the examination method. If we could modify this orthodox pattern of examination she would easily be placed within the average student group of her class. To insert optional exam policy, we prepared another advocacy movement.
A ray of hope appeared, after several interactions and meetings with subject teachers and the school management committee; they agreed to set different question papers for Alisha. As a regular business, the school operated the first terminal exam and they fulfilled their promise by providing different question papers to her. A week later, in the evening I was interacting with children after going through their result. At last I went to Alisha’s home, every family member seemed happy and on the top of this, Alisha’s happiness was clearly visible. I checked her mark sheet, as to my expectation, she had secured average marks in every subject. It was the first experience of her school life that she was holding mark sheet with some praise worthy remarks from her subject teachers. After reading the report card I looked on her eyes, in response, she said “see I did it“.
We both know this is just a beginning of the journey and she has to travel a very long way filled with lot of ups and down, obstacles and challenges.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep”.
1 Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality
joined SOS Children's Villages Nepal in 1996. He is Project Director in Jorpati, Nepal.
His highest treasure at work is meeting the point of heart and mind. This reflects in finding the appropriate middle in severest times. This was the mirror image of success SOS CV as an organization thought him. Born in the western part of the country, growing up in Kathmandu and now living inside the SOS Children’s Village as a head of the SOS family, he savours the joy of connectedness as an active member of a big loving circle.
His leisure time is simply being connected with people of different sectors. Some of them are linked with art, some with music, theatre and some with literature. It is in circles as these he bears witness to the power of creative works. The city of Kathmandu is a valley, in which according to popular opinion more gods and temples are to be seen than there are peoples and homes. Despite the destructions by the last earthquake rendering the gods and humans homeless, they still laugh, smile and have hope.